Monday, August 29, 2022

Martha and Mary Homily


The great American philosopher Dolly Parton once said:

“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”   

Martha was so busy serving Jesus that she missed something much more important. … Because I’m kind of a Martha, I get her. For me, she is the servant leader of the family, doing what needs to be done. But it’s also clear that Mary, the devoted learner chose the better part. She recognized the rare opportunity to sit at the feet of Jesus to learn from and pray with Him. 

Making dinner or being with Jesus? From our perspective, it's easy to see which is the better choice. Both women were serving Jesus but choosing different ways to serve. Both sisters are admirable; they both acted out of love.

Luke positions this story between two of Jesus’ most important teachings. I don’t think that’s an accident. Right before this story comes the parable of the Good Samaritan, which is the ultimate story of discipleship as service. And right after the Martha and Mary story, Luke tells how the disciples come to Jesus and say Lord teach us to pray. So you see. The sister of service and the sister of prayer are sandwiched right between the two passages, emphasizing the importance of service and devotion.

So why did Jesus say Mary picked “the better part?” Martha's mistake that day was to get so caught up in her servants' heart, so full of worry about her hostess duties, that she completely misses the more significant point. As was so often the case, Jesus was doing something radical that day.

The reading tells us: that Mary sat beside the Lord at his feet, listening to him speak. Rather than assuming the role expected of women in her culture,  she takes her place at the feet of Jesus. She assumes the posture of a student learning at the feet of a rabbi, a role traditionally reserved for men. And Jesus encouraged her. Jesus accepted Mary at the same level as a male disciple. She was assuming a position equal to a man. To call women to be equal to men in discipleship was radical. So radical Martha missed it. That was her mistake. She got so caught up in her work. She missed the better part. She missed the opportunity Jesus was calling her to because she was too busy with busy work. He was calling her to something more important than making dinner.

We do that! We can get so busy in our lives that we don't hear Jesus' call to us to do something big. We can't hear God calling us because we get so caught up in our work. We don’t take the time to listen. We don’t take the time to sit at his feet and listen to his call. We don’t take some time in quiet prayer to listen to God. We get so caught up in the day-to-day work that we forget to spend quality time each day with Jesus. And because of that, we can miss how he is calling us.

So many of us right now are like Martha, anxious and worried about many things. Jesus gives us the medicine for that anxiousness and worry. He shows it to us through Mary spending time at the feet of Jesus. 

Jesus wants us to be his disciples, all of us. He wants us to slow down and spend more time in study and prayer. Like Dolly Parton, he's asking us to “Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life.”

When I was a kid, we had nuns teaching in our Catholic grammar schools. They taught us from something called the Baltimore Catechism. It was a series of questions that the catechism answered.

Question # 6. It is one everyone who learned from this book can repeat. The question was: 

Why did God make you?

And all the students would answer:

God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him forever in heaven.

Martha and Mary teach us this same lesson. Mary shows us how important it is to KNOW him and Martha shows us how important it is to SERVE him. Ultimately, the goal is to LOVE him. But … we need to slow down enough to know and love our God.

I heard a poem a few years back that I think of whenever I'm going too fast – when I'm locked on to making a living rather than a life. I'd like to end with it today. 

Have you ever watched kids

On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain

Slapping the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight?

Or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You better slow down

Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won’t last.

Do you run through each day

On the fly?

When you ask: How are you?

Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done,

Do you lie in your bed

With the next hundred chores

Running through your head?

You’d better slow down.

Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won’t last.

Ever told your child,

We’ll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste,

Not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch,

Let a good friendship die

Cause you never had time

To call and say, “Hi”?

You’d better slow down

Don’t dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere

You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through the day,

It is like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life is not a race.

Do take it slower.

Hear the music

Before the song is over.

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